Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in these appeals regarding two brothers' disputes concerning the administration of their deceased mother's estate, holding that the circuit court did not err in removing both brother from their fiduciary roles and replacing them with a disinterested third party.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in removing the brothers as co-executors on the basis that the brothers were, to the detriment of the estate, deadlocked concerning the administration of the estate; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the brothers compensation, legal fees, and costs; and (3) there was no reversible error regarding the presence of a third brother in the courtroom during the trial. View "Galiotos v. Galiotos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's misdemeanor conviction for attempting to purchase a firearm while subject to a protective order, holding that the admission of certain evidence did not violate Defendant's confrontation right.At issue was whether a return of service on a preliminary protective order, which included the serving deputy's signature and the time and date of service, was testimonial evidence subject to exclusion under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court of appeals concluded that the signing and dating of the return of service was a ministerial duty on the part of the deputy sheriff that was functionally distinct from the delivery of live testimony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the return of service was intended to serve a primarily administrative purpose, not to create an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony, and therefore, the admission of the evidence did not violate Defendant's constitutional right to confrontation. View "Logan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellants' challenges to certain amendments to the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance and the imposition of a Transient Occupancy Tax, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellants owned or possessed homes within Fairfax County. In 2018, the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County amended the Zoning Ordinance (the STL Amendment) redefining a dwelling and adding definitions for "transient occupancy" and "short-term lodging." The Board also amended the County Code to impose a transient occupancy tax of two percent of the cost of the short-term lodging (the TOT Amendment). Appellants brought a declaratory judgment action challenging the validity of the STL Amendment and the TOT Amendment. The trial court dismissed Appellants' claims with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing Appellants' challenges to the amendments. View "Norton v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred by affirming an award of permanent total disability benefits after Employee suffered an injury that was a compensable consequence of an earlier compensable injury.Merrick Vincent was injured during the course and scope of his employment and was awarded temporary total benefits. Vincent later fell down the stairs of his home and injured his left knee. A deputy commission awarded him benefits on the grounds that the knee injury was a compensable consequence of his previous injuries. Vincent then filed a change-in-condition claim seeking an award of permanent total disability benefits under Va. Code 65.2-503(C)(1). A deputy commission awarded the benefits, and the Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 65.2-503(C)(1) permits an award of permanent total disability only if two disabling injuries occurred "in the same accident"; and (2) because Vincent suffered his original injuries and his knee injury in different accidents, the court of appeals erred by affirming the Commission's ruling. View "Merck v. Vincent" on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising out of a suit to impeach a will the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying a plea in bar, holding that if the circuit court erred in denying the plea in bar, any error was harmless.Ten days before the decedent's death, Robert Machen, a lawyer who had befriended the decedent, presented the decedent with copies of a will he had drafted for her signature. The decedent signed the will, which contained a no-contest clause providing that the decedent's family members would get nothing from the estate if they contested the will. All family members except David Williams signed a release form. Williams then brought this suit to impeach the will. Machen filed a plea in bar asserting that Williams lacked standing to sue. The circuit court denied the plea in bar and held that the will and been procured by undue influence and fraud. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that any error in denying the plea in bar as to Williams was harmless. View "Machen v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing a petition for appeal filed by a person who was not a party in the proceeding from which the appeal was taken, holding that there was no error in the judgment of the court of appeals.Michelina Bonanno was the mother of Elizabeth Quinn. Elizabeth had a daughter from a previous relationship. Elizabeth and Bonanno were awarded joint legal custody of the child, and Elizabeth was awarded physical custody. Elizabeth subsequently married James Quinn. When Elizabeth died, James filed a petition for adoption, asserting that Bonanno's consent was unnecessary because of lack of visitation or contact. After the circuit court entered a final order of adoption Bonanno filed a motion to vacate and set aside the order and then filed a petition for appeal. James filed a motion to dismiss, noting that Bonanno had not filed a motion to intervene in the adoption proceeding. The circuit court denied Bonanno a hearing on the motions, and Bonanno appealed. The circuit court dismissed the appeals, concluding that Bonanno lacked standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals (1) lacked jurisdiction to hear Bonanno's petition for appeal; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by awarding James appellate attorney's fees. View "Bonanno v. Quinn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that the Historic Alexandria Foundation lacked standing to pursue the claims asserted in this case, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's judgment.Vowell, LLC filed applications to obtain certain permits for the renovation of property located in the Old and Historic District of the City of Alexandria. The Old and Historic Alexandria District Board of Architectural Review (the BAR) approved Vowell's applications, and the City Council affirmed the BAR's decision. The Foundation appealed the City's Council decision. The circuit court dismissed the matter with prejudice, concluding that the petition did not establish that the Foundation was an aggrieved party with standing to pursue the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Foundation lacked standing because the allegations of the petition failed to establish that the Foundation suffered particularized harm that differed from that suffered by the public in general. View "Historic Alexandria Foundation v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court awarding costs to Defendants under Va. Code 8.01-380 after the entry of a nonsuit order, holding that, under Rule 1:1, the written order awarding costs was untimely and must be vacated.Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice suit against Defendants. After the circuit court granted Defendants' motion to disqualify Plaintiff's expert witness, Plaintiff voluntarily nonsuited the case. Twenty days after entry of the nonsuit order, the court stated from the bench that it would award costs to Defendants. However, the court's written order awarding costs was entered more than twenty-one days after entry of the nonsuit order. The Supreme Court held that the order was void because it was entered more than twenty-one days following entry of the nonsuit order. View "Kosko v. Ramser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of carrying a concealed weapon, second offense, in violation of Va. Code 18.2-308, holding that the trial court erred by failing to apply the statutory exception to criminal liability recognized in subsection 18.2-308(C)(8).The court of appeals affirmed Defendant's conviction for violating section 18.2-308(A). On appeal, Defendant argued that the statutory exception to criminal liability recognized by subsection 18.2-308(C)(8) applied to the undisputed facts of this case. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that Defendant was entitled to the protection of subsection (C)(8)'s exception to criminal liability for carrying a concealed weapon because the handgun at issue in this case was secured in a container within Defendant's personal, private vehicle. View "Myers v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint in this fraudulent conveyance suit, holding that the circuit court erred in shifting only the burden of production, and not the burden of persuasion, to Defendants after Plaintiff established a presumption of fraudulent conveyance.Plaintiff filed this suit seeking to void a purported fraudulent conveyance of a certain residence. The circuit court found that Plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to establish a presumption that the conveyance was fraudulent but eventually dismissed Plaintiff's complaint. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the circuit court erred in ruling that after a plaintiff in a fraudulent conveyance case proves a badge of fraud, which creates the presumption of a fraudulent conveyance, the plaintiff still retains the burden of persuasion to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, a fraudulent conveyance. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred when it (1) did not shift to Defendants the burden of persuasion along with the burden of production, and (2) did not apply a standard of proof that required strong and clear evidence in determining the sufficiency of Defendants' evidence offered to rebut the presumption of a fraudulent conveyance. View "White v. Llewellyn" on Justia Law